Wendy Doniger in the LRB, 16 December 1993:
Even within a single traditional family, Christmas is problematic, precisely because it is not supposed to be problematic. In England, the Samaritans receive approximately eight thousand calls of anguish on each of the three main Christmas days (as compared with five thousand at other times of the year). The Swiss even have a word for it: Weihnachtscholer (‘Christmas unhappiness’). In Trinidad, Daniel Miller notes, a popular play begins
Fargo was in ah bad mood. It was Christmas Eve, an’ he hated Christmas Eve. Because dat was one time ah year he used to feel like nobody eh like he. Because Fargo didn’t have no family to like he.
The title of Orvar Lofgren’s essay conjures up many a Bergman film: ‘The Great Christmas Quarrel and Other Swedish Traditions.’ He quotes a typical celebrant: ‘I don’t think I have been genuinely happy at Christmas since I was a child. What’s wrong?’ Instead of asking ‘What’s wrong with me?’ we might do well to ask: ‘What’s wrong with Christmas?’ [Continue]